For those familiar with the Christian religion, most of us know about the Day of Judgment. As the story goes, when we reach the Pearly Gates, we are greeted by Saint Peter who takes us before God. In a sort of celestial court hearing, the charges -- our sins -- are laid out against us. We may get to rebut the charges by trying to show all the good we did in our lives on earth. In the end, God passes judgment and our ticket is punched either for heaven or hell.
By and large, Christians think they know what goes into the tally, but what if they have it all wrong? What if the criteria is altogether different from what religious authorities would have them believe? It might go something like this.
Bob Johnson, having recently died, is waiting outside of the Pearly Gates. Peter approaches him.
Peter: Okay Bob, you're up next. Before you go in, I want to go over the ground rules.
Bob: (nervously) Do I look okay?
Peter: What? Oh yeah, you look fine. Rule #1: Look at me at all times. Do not look at God. If you even as much as try to catch the briefest of glimpses of the almighty, the hearing is over and you will be sent straight to hell. I can't stress this point enough.
Bob: Not even a little peek?
Peter: NO!! You want to burn in the eternal cauldron?
Bob: Of course not.
Peter: Then follow Rule #1 without exception. Rule #2: Don't even think about lying. Don't fudge or hem and haw. When he asks you a question, answer it truthfully. If you so much as cut the tiniest corner in the truth department, he will know it. Just the slightest fib and the hearing is over. You will be sent straight to hell.
Bob: Totally truthful. Scout's honor.
Peter: Rule #3: Don't be argumentative. Don't forget that you are dealing with the omnipotent almighty.
Bob: Can I ask questions?
Peter: Yes, but not argumentative ones. Also, don't ask too many questions. He sometimes views that as being argumentative.
Bob: Anything else?
Peter: Yes, Rule #4 is butter him up without seeming like a brown noser. He's got a huge ego and he likes it when people fawn all over him. But you must be careful. If he thinks you're simply trying to score brownie points, he gets ticked off. Trust me, you don't want him ticked off at you.
Bob: I'll try to keep these four rules in mind.
They walk through a door into a celestial courtroom. Bob is told to kneel before the bench with his hands folded in front of him.
Peter: Heavenly Father, I present to you Bob Johnson.
God: Hi, Bob. Do you have anything you wish to say on your behalf before we get this ball rolling?
Bob: Yes, oh merciful Heavenly Father.
God: Well, spit it out. We don't have all day.
Bob: Heavenly Father, I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I have loved him with all my heart, all my mind and all my soul. I regularly attended church and took counsel from my ministers. I prayed fervently before every meal and each night before bed. I beg your forgiveness for my sins...which are many.
God: None of that is germane to this hearing, but thanks for sharing.
Bob: I also tithed a minimum of 10% of my annual net earnings to my local church and almost always added more to the weekly collection plate. I also made hefty donations for church missions.
God: Still not germane, but this your time to say whatever you want.
Bob: Not germane? I don't understand.
God: Well, it has nothing to do with my judgment as to whether you warrant a ticket to heaven or hell. I base that decision on far more important criteria.
Bob: Like what?
God: How many non-humans have you carelessly killed during your lifetime?
Bob: Excuse me. I don't understand the question.
God: What's not to understand? The question is very straightforward.
Bob: What exactly do you mean? Mosquitoes? Bed bugs? Rodents? Elk?
God: Yes. All of those meet the definition of non-human. So, how many non-humans have you carelessly killed during your lifetime?
Bob: Hell if I know!
Peter: Hey, watch your language. Remember what I told you before we came in here?
Bob: Sorry. But what kind of question is that?
God: Are you questioning ME?
Bob: I simply don't understand this inane question. What does it have to do with salvation?
God: How can you be "saved" if you don't understand that all things are connected through me?
Bob: In the Book of Genesis, it is written that humans have dominion over all other creatures. Those are your words.
God: I was misquoted a bit, but that's not that important right now. Dominion simply means you have control or power over something else. You can choose for it to be positive and loving dominion or, as you have chosen, negative and hateful dominion.
Bob: I simply did what I was taught by the church fathers. How was I to know they were giving me bum advice?
God: Because the answer is written in everyone's heart. If you had bothered to look, you would have found it.
Bob: Look, I'm sorry. What do you want from me? I'll repent right now, if you like.
God: Too late. You had that chance every moment of your life.
Bob: What does this mean?
God: You, my son, are going to h-e-l-l.
Bob: Then I want to file an appeal!
Peter: There are no appeals in this court. Bailiff, escort Mr. Johnson to the fiery furnace.
God: Let's break for lunch. I'm starved.